BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
CEDAR RAPIDS – Just over three years ago Miles Wentzien was playing in a substate game in Muscatine and had the ball with six seconds left and his team down by two points in overtime.
The All-State Bloodhound took an inbound pass at the opposite end of the court and worked his way through a melee of red-jersied boys from Williamsburg, and pushed his way to the corner of the right free throw line. Everyone in the building, including the nine others on the court, were convinced Wentzien would find a shot. So much so, the senior was mobbed at that point. He could have forced a shot, and may have gotten the foul call, but he looked for a teammate.
He found Camden Chrisman who had an open-look, but the shot was partially deflected and the Hounds were done.
But it was the mindset of a senior who knew there was a chance he may get a call, but had the maturity to realize someone else may have a better shot. A very unselfish play that set a tone for a man now playing his favorite game and moving to the next level.
The sophomore from Kirkwood College in Cedar Rapids, an NJCAA Div. II school, has entertained offers from more than 20 NCAA schools over the past six months. He said he’s narrowed his choices to one D-I school and a couple of D-II schools carrying with him two more years of eligibility.
“I really don’t know what’s next for me,” Wentzien said. “Right now I have one D-I offer from American and two D-II offers at Winona State and Minnesota State-Moorhead. They just seem to be the right fit for me. I get along with the coaches and what the campuses have to offer. I just haven’t made up my mind yet. I don’t know much about Moorhead. I’m heading up there this weekend to take a look at that campus.”
After leading the Bloodhounds, the Fort Madison native was named to the Des Moines Register Class 3A 2nd team All-State and quickly signed with Missouri Western. Wentzien said he wasn’t ready for the college game and didn’t heed the advice of those around him.
“I think, out of high school, I wasn’t ready for the college game,” he said Wednesday. “Everyone said there was a huge difference in the college game and I didn’t understand that difference. After playing a few more years, I’m more comfortable. Missouri Western wasn’t the best fit for me and it wasn’t the best place to spend all four years.”
So Wentzien said goodbye to Saint Joseph, Mo., and headed back to Iowa where he found coach Taylor Blum and a comfortable program that has helped him find how his skills can be honed, while developing a bigger sense of team. A feat not lost on a high school kid who dished off to teammate with the game on the line, when more than 2,ooo people thought he was going to take the shot.
With Kirkwood, Wentzien said he found a coach and a team that worked…as well as success, as the 6’3′”guard was named 1st Team All-Region and 1st Team All-American for the past season.
The Eagles made a run at the NJCAA Div. II title losing to eventual tournament champion Southwestern (IA) in the region finals. Wentzien finished the season averaging close to 15 points per game, shooting 49% from the field including 35% from the 3-point arc and a spicy 90.2% from the free throw line, good enough for 4th overall in the nation at that level, according to the NJCAA website.
“I’ve had a lot of people help me get where I’m at as far as basketball on the court. Coach Taylor Blum always had time for me with rebounding… putting me through drills. I’ve just had lots of good advice and opportunities from people to get to Kirkwood and have this kind of success.”
He said it’s always great to see locals from Fort Madison come to Kirkwood and watch him play.
“That’s awesome and I really appreciate the support. Fort Madison has always given me a lot of love.”
His growth as a player and finding a place where he’s more focused on his goals has been a labor of personal drive, introspection, and determination. The 1st semester Academic All-American says it required admitting to his weaknesses and seeing how his mindset to that development has brought about more confidence in his game.
“I think I’ve just critiqued everything I was ok at in high school and I’m better at now,” he said. “And now a more overall mindset of what the team needs…when to score… when to pass and be aggressive and understand the game better and make the right reads. I can certainly still work on those. I’m not perfect by any means.”
Wentzien will receive his Associate of Arts in business from Kirkwood at the end of this term. But he said his goal has always been to play in the NBA and/or overseas and it’s not something he’s ever thought of deviating from.
“No. I have always had a dream to play in the NBA or overseas and that’s my goal, but I knew I had to play college and now I’m really enjoying that.”
This summer is still up in there for Wentzien who also excelled in baseball and golf while at Fort Madison. He said his plans will be dictated by what school’s offer he accepts.
“If I go to American, I will have to be out there in June. There’s a league out there with some professionals in it,” he said. “The other two schools I could probably come back home and will probably play in the PrimeTime League out of Iowa City.”
The league features six teams filled with current Iowa collegiate players and other players from around the state and overseas. Wentzien said the league is more fun than work now. In 2016 he played with former Hawkeye Peter Jok on the LL Pelling/ Comfort Care Medicare team.
“It’s more fun for me now. My first two years it helped me prepare for college, but now you get to work on your moves. You can only move against a cone so many times.”